Week in June

Pair of Mule Deer

Quite a week it has been, three awesome photo adventures with photography buddy Kevin, eagles at Eleven Mile Canyon, a Wilson’s Warbler on a great hike to Anne-Marie Falls on Pikes Peak and a long desired photo trip to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Reserve near Denver Colorado 🙂

Last Saturday we had planned to make the hike to the pond on the Twin Rocks Trail in the Fossil Beds National Monument. Unfortunately not long after I arrived it had started to sprinkle and by the time Kevin got there we were in a full fledged rain storm with more to come throughout the day. The rain let up for a few minutes but we decided that we really didn’t want to get caught in a rain storm several miles back into the mountains.

Eventually we decided to go to Eleven Mile Canyon instead where we could quickly

Mother Bald Eagle with Her Eaglet

retreat to the shelter of the vehicle in the event of a rainstorm. It was raining when we got there so we just drove all the way to the end of the canyon making a mental not of all the good spots along the way.  I shot quite a few of the roaring river on the way back out but unfortunately I’m not really too thrilled with any of those images. The eagle at mouth of the canyon was however another matter! She and her eaglet were putting on quite a show 🙂 I had photographed the eagle and her youngster last winter, but the little one isn’t very little anymore! The little guy is almost full grown now and getting very close to flight. I was privileged to witness the eaglet spreading his young wings in the wind while gaining a few inches of altitude above the nest with mama eagle looking on intently.

Wilson's Warbler

Sunday was supposed to  be a much more hospitable morning so we decided to hike back out to Anne-Marie Falls on Pikes Peak in search of the little yellow Wilson’s Warbler. After arriving  we didn’t see any action so we took up a good vantage point and just waited. Eventually the diminutive bird began to circle in closer and closer and we were able to capture quite a few poses before he grew bored with the game and departed into the dense forest.

The day for our planned journey to the Arsenal arrived with an unexpected winter storm. I was tempted to bail, but the storm was supposed to give way by mid morning to a sunny pleasant day so I decided to chance the drive over the pass. It had been pretty warm all week and the snow was just melting on the roads at 3:00 a.m. when I arose so I really didn’t think there was  going to be a problem.

I was wrong… I didn’t encounter any snow on the roads on the way up the pass but by

American Bison and Denver Skyline

the time I got to Divide it was a total whiteout and the snow was piling up on the road. There was so much snow that I couldn’t even tell what lane I was in 😦 Eventually as we descended out of the mountains the snow gave way to rain and we were out of danger. However when we got to the arsenal it was still raining pretty hard so for he first hour we were having to shoot out the window and many pictures were ruined by the  lack of a good shooting angle 😦 Eventually the weather did clear and we got some wonderful images of buffalo, deer, pelicans, a blue heron and a few other kinds of small birds including the elusive swallows that have been taunting us for the last few days.

Female Redwing Black Bird

Today of course finds me at the computer monitor trying to deal with the couple thousand images that have been piling up on my computer these days! As always these images and more will be available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift and tech items are also available including t-shirts, coffee mugs, battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and pillows and much more!

Canada Geese and Goslings

 

 

Toughest Hike of the Season

wp-15912071674426288490362435577221.jpgRaspberry Mountain turned out to be a bit more rigorous than I expected. The trail profile on Alltrails indicated that it was only going to be about a thousand feet of elevation gain, well within the limits of my training for this hiking season! Well it turns out my app doesn’t really measure the accumulated elevation gain, only the total from the lowest point to the highest point.

The trailhead is located on the Crags Trail Road and is clearly marked just before you get to the Crags Trail parking lot.

Pikes Peak and North Catamount

The trail begins with a pretty good climb of about 500 feet up some well maintained switchbacks for about a quarter of a mile. From there you hike up and down through the beautiful Pike National Forest  for another one and three quarters of a mile to the actual base of Raspberry Mountain where there is a steep climb over slippery scree to a small boulder field at the summit. I have to admit on the way down I did take a nasty spill and I have a couple of spots requiring some aspirin perhaps 😦

I’m not a fan of boulder fields of any kind but this one was pretty small in comparison to say the one on top of Mount Yale. A small amount of looking for a good route resulted in a pretty easy climb to the summit where there is an awesome near 360 degree view from North Catamount reservoir to the summit of Pikes Peak, the Sangre de Cristo Range to the south and the Mosquito Range to the west.

We lingered at the summit for a bit taking in the view and enjoying some Gatorade before picking our way back down the steep boulder and scree fields. All in all I would say it is a hike well worth doing! Unfortunately we didn’t see much to photograph but this one of North Catamount did turn out pretty nice 🙂

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Awesome Day on the Crags Trail

wp-15906917194317936377850603572725.jpgIt has been four years since I have hiked the Crags Trail so I was very much looking forward to it! The trail is located on Highway 67 on the west side of magnificent Pikes Peak Colorado about three miles into the Pike National Forest on a rough dirt road. I have to say, the road is a bit longer than I remember but on the upside it is pretty well maintained for a Colorado mountain road!

Crags Trail Scenery

Hiking buddy Kevin and I arrived at the trailhead at about 7:00 this morning… a bit chilly but we were ready to hike! The first half mile or so is up a pretty rigorous hill that definitely got the blood pumping! Once you get over the initial hump the trail levels out to a gently sloping uphill path along Four Mile Creek, which was running gently through the woods this time of year.

I was hoping to see some larger animals feeding and watering along the creek that early

Crags Trail Scenery

in the morning but all we saw were a few birds. The choke cherries aren’t in bloom yet so the birds were all high in the pines eating pine nuts I suppose. At about two miles in, the trail begins a steep ascent to the high point of the hike. We had some fun with a Gray Jay, also known as “camp robber”, about halfway up the climb… snapping a few pictures as the little critter checked us out, no doubt looking for a handout or for something to steal from us! One of those little buggers actually stole a Power Bar right out of one of my running buddy’s hand on one trek up the Barr Trail!

Crags Trail Scenery

Eventually we closed in on the slippery gravely summit area where there was a fabulous view of the three reservoirs, North and South Catamount and Crystal Reservoir to the east and a bird’s eye view of the Crags valley to the west. From there you can see all the way to Mount Evans and maybe even Longs Peak to the north, and the Mosquito Range to the west.

After a rest and a quick lunch we headed back down the steep descent to the long trail

Steller's Jay also know as a camp robber

back to the bottom of the valley. For a while it looked like all we were going to get pictures of was the mountainous area at the top, when all of a sudden we were visited by a couple more Gray Jays who spent enough time with us to get a few nice bird portraits 🙂

I highly recommend this trail if you are in sufficient condition for a five plus mile trek in the mountains. I’d suggest getting there early in the nice weather months as this is a fairly heavily used trail.

As always, these pictures and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and tech gifts are also available including the newly added Covid masks! You can also purchase apparel, coffee mugs, battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and pillows and much more!

Winter in May

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

It was definitely winter when I was loading my camera equipment into the truck for my hike on the mountain today! Yesterday afternoon a cold front came through and we got snow, hail, thunder, lightning and wind! This morning the ice was all still present and it took me about 15 minutes just to scrape out a place to see through the windshield!

It was also winter when I started my hike through the fresh snow at 11,000 feet. The

Baby Prairie Dog

wind was blowing and I was glad I had a hood on my jacket, which I quickly pulled over my frozen and aching ears. Eventually I cleared the ridge and thankfully the wind subsided. The Sangre de Cristo range soon came into view in all it’s glory, still sporting storm clouds from yesterdays weather. I stopped there for a while to take in the sound of the wind blowing in the tall pines and the chirping of happy song birds, and of course to capture a few images of the magnificent snow capped peaks.

By now the it was warming up quickly and spring had returned to the Rocky Mountains. The prairie dogs were chirping out their happiness to see the sunshine and luckily for me this one little fellow stuck around long enough for me to get his picture. I moved around to the sunny side while he warily kept a little black eye on my movement. I was able to get two captures before the diminutive creature retreated back into his den.

 

The Next Lockdown

Cottonwood Lake Colorado

This Memorial Day weekend I am thankful that I live in a state with relatively few people so there is ample opportunity for me to get out in the Rocky Mountain wilderness, well away from people and the worries of the Covid-19 virus. So far this weekend I was able to have a wonderful visit to the Collegiate Peaks and Mosquito Range mountains near Leadville and Buena Vista with my photo buddy Kevin, a nice hike through the woods in the wp-15903528734408372567264817863598.jpgFlorissant Fossil Beds National Monument and another enjoyable hike on my favorite mountain in the Pike National Forest

The highlight of our 6 mile hike on the Twin Rocks Trail through the Fossil Beds was the pond at the halfway point with a couple of red wing blackbirds, a

Hummingbird in the Reeds by #swkrullimaging

humming bird and a chipmunk. We of course were hoping for elk or a bear but the little critters were all we were blessed with. Good photography practice for sure though! One of the things I finally learned how to do was record and share my hike with my Alltrails app! I’ve been a member for many years, logging over one thousand trails in my profile, but never bothering to learn how to record my progress 😦

Rocky Mountain Whitewater

Our first stop on the Collegiate Peaks trip was at stunningly beautiful Cottonwood Lake on Cottonwood Pass Road where we found mirror like water reflecting the rugged terrain surrounding the lake and the snow capped mountains of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in the background. The cliffs on the north side of the lake are known for their abundance of bighorn sheep and mountain goats which were our intended target of the day but unfortunately the elusive animals decided not to show themselves. We did however have a nice time exploring the lake and photographing the magnificent scenery. On the way back down to

Steve Krull at Denny Creek

the road we saw a cute mule deer and stopped to photograph the rushing water of the stream flowing out of the lake through the dense pines of the San Isabel National Forest.

We had hoped to drive all the way to the top of Cottonwood Pass to see the Continental Divide but unfortunately the road was closed at the Denny Creek Trailhead so we just stopped there for a break and to photograph the creek roaring down to meet Cottonwood Creek. Many thanks to Kevin for shooting this awesome picture of me beside the creek!

Mosquito Range and Turquois Lake

Kevin had never been, so once we had seen enough of Cottonwood Pass we turned north to see the sights in the historic mining town of Leadville. From my Leadville 100 running days I remembered the Golden Burro Cafe so we drove through town hoping it was still open. We were in luck, the place was still there and even though the lockdown was ongoing for restaurants in Colorado they were open for takeout. As we waited we discussed the fate of the town during the virus with the hostess and she informed us everything was cancelled, the 100 mile race, Boom Days, everything that makes summer fun in Leadville. The Burro has a great breakfast takeout deal going on if you happen to journey to Leadville, five dollars for several awesome breakfast dishes, and I enjoyed immensely the green chili breakfast burrito 🙂

Stilted Sandpiper on Twin Lakes

Next stop was the Twin Lakes recreation area where we photographed some more mountains reflecting in the water and a cute sandpiper trotting along the shoreline looking for food. Our last highlight of the day was a few pronghorn antelope in the high prairie near Spinney Reservoir. In addition to the still images I also have some footage of the roaring whitewater and I have created a YouTube video of this adventure set to inspiring music! Visit and subscribe if you like for a few minutes of blessed relaxation during these stressful times!

Yesterday and today I spent alone, hiking my regular trails in the Pike National Forest near Woodland Park and Cripple Creek. I saw my favorite little deer herd just as  they were  preparing to settle down for their morning nap, so of

Sleepy Deer Herd

course I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that process. They were some distance away, but that didn’t stop them from casting a few wary stares in my direction! Later I spotted a prairie dog so I sat down on a log for a few minutes and sure enough after a while he stuck his head out of his den to yell something at me in prairie dog language before scampering back to safety… but not before I was able to capture a couple of frames though 🙂

All the years I have been hiking there I have been eyeing a hollow stump… wondering if I

Prairie Dog

could frame a landscape of the distant Sangre de Cristo Mountains through it. However, the first time I went there this spring after my long recovery from surgery I noticed it was no longer there. Just my luck… three years of wanting to photograph it and the minute I’m ready it’s gone!  Well I  got to thinking, maybe the heavy snow this year had rolled it down the hill? So as I walked past I looked in vain for an upended tree stump. Finally, just as I thought I was too far I noticed a real tree stump sticking up out of the ground and I thought, could it be? I hiked on down to take a look and I’ll be darned if it hadn’t righted itself and was now disguised as a bonafide tree stump instead of a picture frame! Unfortunately I didn’t have the right lens along so I wasn’t able to get the stump in focus with my long lens, but I am now determined to make my way back up there with my wide angle and capture that long anticipated shot.

Mule Deer in the Woods

On the remainder of my trek my thoughts turned to the terrible events of this year and for some reason the wicked grin on the face of that Michigan governor, Witless or whatever her name is stuck in my head as she gleefully announced that the lockdown would continue, as if she were getting a kick out of punishing naughty children. First the lockdown was to be a month or so to flatten the curve, then weeks turned into months as the goalposts were moved by politicians and unelected medical professionals to include new objectives, and now we are hearing in some places that the lockdown may continue until there is a vaccine, which may never come.

Pronghorn Antelope on the High PrairieOn the weekend that we celebrate the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have fought and died to preserve our God given freedom, I thought… how easily we gave it all up and dutifully retreated to our own private little prisons, and how easily we were tricked into believing that our leaders would keep their word and end our incarceration when we had “flattened the curve”. How easy it was for the politicians to virtually suspend the constitution and discard our “inalienable rights” without even a vote from congress. I know we did it for good reason and we have no idea how many lives may have been saved as a result, but I also know we have not even begun to understand the cost. I am disturbed by how much some officials seem to be enjoying their newly found power and I can’t help but think all this is not lost upon those who value power over freedom and would love for this to become permanent.

Tranquil Pond

How long will it be before the AOC’s and the Newsome’s of the world decide that there needs to be a climate change lockdown until the “temperature emergency” is resolved… if ever. I have heard of quarantine facilities where the Covid-19 victims can go to wait out their illness… “all voluntary” of course. In the next lockdown will climate deniers be sent to re-education facilities? Will they take away our cars, shut down the airlines and dismantle the oil refineries? They don’t seem to care that they are destroying the livelihood and businesses of millions of citizens now, I’m sure there are those who won’t mind enslaving us in the future.

On this memorial day I fear that we are only one vote away from the end of this glorious republic. I hope our experience with this virus has taught us how fragile our freedom really is. We may pass the point of no return if we ever allow this to happen again. We can never let this happen again.

Chipmunk on a Rock

 

 

 

Hiking the Limber Pines Trail

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

If you want beautiful views of Pikes Peak and a brisk three mile hike in the mountains, the Limber Pines / Ring the Peak loop in Catamount Ranch just west of Woodland Park, Colorado might be just the ticket. If you are planning to go on the weekend I recommend getting there early, probably well before 8:00 a.m. To get there take highway 24 west from Woodland Park and just at the top of the hill past the hospital start looking for Edlowe Road on the south side. From there take Edlowe Road all the way to the end where you will see a small parking lot.

To start the loop just head up the trail and a steep hill to the trail map sign and a fence. Go

North Catamount Reservoir

through the wide gate and you will find yourself on a trail that goes left and right. It is the Limber Pines trail that is the start of the 2.8 mile loop. If you go right you will be on a beautiful forest trail that switchbacks down to the dirt road that is the Ring the Peak trail. Be sure to look towards the east for views of Pikes Peak as you make your descent towards the reservoir. Y

Take a left here and you will walk the road towards and the along North Catamount Reservoir where the road finally leaves the reservoir and begins a

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

long ascent up to the top of the ridge. There are some fantastic views of the peak and a beautiful mix of aspen and pine forest along the way. Finally you will find yourself near the top of the climb at which time you will want to be looking for a trail sign which marks the other end of the Limber Pines Trail. From there it is a short walk back to the gate where your hike began.

If you decide to go the other way, obviously you will be walking down the dirt Ring the Peak road past the reservoir where you will need to be looking for the trail sign and the ascent on the Limber Pines Trail back to the starting point. Be sure to bring plenty of liquids to drink, the trail is only 2.8 miles but the ascents can be strenuous for those not acclimated to the elevation.

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

Venturing Out

It was unavoidable, had to pick up a prescription at Walgreen’s down in Woodland Park. I rarely look forward to going down there, today even less. In addition to Walgreen’s I had to brave Walmart and Tractor Supply as well, mask on face avoiding all contact with people. Of course there is no place to have lunch, no place to stop for a micro brew, nothing to do but get my supplies and  get out. Thankfully the panic in the mountains appears to be pretty much over with and supplies were plentiful. Walmart is monitoring how many people are in the store, but it wasn’t busy and fortunately I didn’t have to wait in any lines.

Springtime Deer in the Colorado Rockies

I did decide to drive up to Paradise Open Space Park to see if I might be able to take a little hike in the woods on the mountainsides of Ute Pass. Saw quite a few deer on the way,  looks like we’ve added significantly to the herd! Sadly it looks like the pine beetle have laid waste to quite a bit of acreage with a lot of trees cut down, ugly stumps left in their place… victims of the drought that is thankfully over with. The trail was steeper than I remember, or perhaps the gravitational pull of the earth has increased significantly. I suppose the month that I’ve been sitting on my butt recovering from surgery may have contributed to me sucking wind on the inclines… but I’m going with the gravitational disruption story, it has a better ring to it 🙂

Cloudy Pikes Peak

I usually write with some joy about the arrival of the spring equinox and the glorious light of the sun on the north face of Pikes Peak, but I was in the hospital on that day with the north face of the Great Mountain far out of view and out of mind. And I have to say, there isn’t a whole lot of joy going around this year and even the beautiful light of spring shining on fresh snow did little to lift my spirits. I am thankful though to live in such a beautiful sparsely populated place where a person can still go hiking without getting arrested.

There are rumblings of a loosening of the stay at home order coming next week, but I also saw a warning to go with it to “Stay out of the mountain towns.”. Can’t blame them I guess,  I don’t really want the city people bringing the virus up to my little mountain town either.

All in all I would have to say it was a pretty good day, assuming I managed to avoid contracting the virus. Speaking of which, stylish face masks printed with one of the many images on my website are now available for purchase! I’m going to get one or two for myself, as soon as I can figure out which picture to use!

 

Unsocial Distancing

Elk Herd on the Mountain

Hit the trail for the first time since my surgery, observing my usual “unsocial distancing” practice. My rule of thumb for that is six miles rather than six feet, basically I’m annoyed if I see anyone at all 🙂

The climb up the ridge was not any easier than it was before I got all out of shape sitting around the house recovering, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath for sure! I thought for a minute I was going to have to turn around when I saw a giant snowdrift ahead but fortunately with all the freezing and thawing the snow was hard packed and easy to cross.

Elk Herd on the Mountain

The climb turned out to  be worth it though when I saw the elk herd 🙂 The lighting was horrible so I didn’t get the glory shot, but it sure was nice to be back in the great outdoors! And the frosting on the cake were my coyote friends who cut loose with a good coyote song for me while I hiked on past 🙂 you can hear the beautiful song in this short video on my YouTube channel! Please subscribe to my channel if you like, I need a few more to get my custom URL!

The hike started out in snow and fog but by the time I reached the summit the beautiful snow capped Sangre de Cristo were beginning to shine through 🙂

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

Last Mile of the Marathon

I swear, these last few months crawling by before retirement from the regular rat race remind me of the last couple miles of a marathon. You’ve been running for three hours, you are exhausted, feet hurt, knees feeling like they are going to explode. Only two miles left but you still don’t know if you are really going to make the finish line, head down mind on that one singular moment in time…  when you see that white line pass under your feet.  But those last two miles feel like a whole new marathon ahead, like it is never going to end

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in winter

That’s what it’s like now… years of sleep deprivation, hundreds of hours of abuse from mouthy customers and managers bogging you down like an ocean of quicksand. I just want it to be over and I can’t seem to think about anything else 😦 It has even managed to affect my photography. The cold and the snow and the fatigue from the late nights of work have depleted my strength, my mornings now consist of trying to pry my eyes open instead of hiking on my favorite mountain.

But today, I looked out at the beauty of the Sangres and I found some strength in my legs, enough to go to my office and retrieve my camera. The morning sun on the snow was so amazing today that I had to go out and see it! I wasn’t sure I was going to need my snowshoes but I thought I would regret not lugging them along, the parking lot and the lower trail were dry and rocky but it looked like snow up in the trees. Sure enough, half way up the mountain, when I entered the trees the snow got deep and they became necessary. The surface of the snow was hard and crusty, impossible to get through with just boots, but a joy to effortlessly walk on top of  on with snowshoes!

Soon the summit and the anticipated view of the mountains… Tired and worn now, back in my office at the computer, but happy and proud that I was able to get it together and make the hike 🙂

Suddenly Spring

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

Last week in the high country of Colorado we were contending with blizzard conditions and temperatures that had plummeted well below the zero degree mark. A couple of days ago several inches of snow fell  in the night on top of last week’s melting snow, turning the entire region into a skating rink, I saw the aftermath including cars buried in the deep snow down the embankments on either side of Highway 67 when I had to drive into town for supplies. However, the view of the mountains as the storm clouds were receding was simply spectacular!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

I love it when the storm clouds, wind and blowing snow pour over the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range to the southwest making my job as a photographer so easy! Braving the wind and the cold aren’t so pleasant but having the chance to photograph such splendor sometimes feels like such an incredible honor.

Today however is an entirely different story, the sun is shining, snow and ice are melting and temperatures will soar into the 40’s for the next few days. Such as it is in Colorado, just when it starts to seem like winter is never going to end, suddenly and without warning spring arrives and for a time it is like winter never was. Of course until about the middle of June we have to keep in mind that winter can rudely reappear at any time with a vengeance!

As always  these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website and don’t forget to visit my latest YouTube video to see the elk herd in the deep snows of the high country! Please subscribe to my channel if you like what you see, I still need quite a few subscribers in order to get my custom #swkrullimaging URL that is so important when the time comes to set up my commercial options!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range